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01.09.2006 @ 19:45 The Recreation Ground Crowd: 1367
Grays Athletic 0 - 1 Burton Albion
Referee: G Horwood (England) Conference National-Match

None Andy Ducros (70)
Starting Line-ups
Ashley Bayes
Jay Smith
Andy Sambrook
Adam Green
Jamie Stuart
John Martin
Michael Kightly
Ashley Nicholls
Glenn Poole
Dennis Oli
Aaron McLean
Kevin Poole
Darren Stride
John Brayford
Aaron Webster
Chris Hall
Daniel Holmes
Lee Fowler
Andrew Corbett
Andy Ducros
Daryl Clare
Jon Shaw
Danny Knowles
Nathan Moulds
Tom Williamson
Jamie Slabber
Lee Boylan
Martin Taylor
Nigel Clough
Steve Scoffham
Shaun Harrad
Jamie Slabber -> John Martin (81)
Lee Boylan -> Jay Smith (87)
Shaun Harrad -> Daryl Clare (88)
Yellow cards
None Daniel Holmes (37)
Red cards
None None
Match report |
Frank Gray tasted defeat for the first time as Grays manager on Friday night when a wonder strike from Andy Ducros guided Burton to victory and knocked Blues from the Conference summit in the process.

Ducros' 30-yard thunderbolt and some inspiring goalkeeping from Burton's 43-year-old keeper, Kevin Poole, were the only differences between the two sides who can both expect to be knocking on the door of promotion come May.

Gray said: "When goals like that go in and you see the keeper making saves like he did late in the game sometimes you think the writing is on the wall for you.

"I felt we deserved something from the game but you get games like that during the season.We knew there will be times where we have situations like tonight where we possibly deserved a point. But we have to accept it and bounce back from it."

On being knocked from the top of the Conference tree, Gray added: "I was not bothered we were top two days ago and I'm not bothered that we are not top now. There's a long, long way to go in the season. We have started reasonably well and we will look to continue it."

A crippling early season injury crisis meant Brewers boss Nigel Clough could only name four subs, one of which was himself, for their visit to the New Rec but that didn't stop his side setting the early pace.

Jon Shaw's served notice of his side's intent with a crisp drive from the edge of the box that was smothered by Ashley Bayes inside the first five minutes.

The former Sheffield Wednesday man then turned provider when he escaped down the right and crossed for Chris Hall whose shot on the turn fizzed narrowly over as the visitors looked threatening.

But the man closest to finding the net for the Brewers was, ironically enough, Grays' Glenn Poole who smacked a post with a clearing header as he tracked back into his own box.

Grays were struggling to discover the sort of form that took them to the top of the division but every so often they threatened to flicker into life.

Dennis Oli always looked the most likely to kick-start Blues into life and he very nearly did so when, after twisting majestically past Ducros, he fired a thundering 25-yarder just over Poole's crossbar.

Top-scorer Aaron McLean was then guilty of a glaring miss for the hosts when he escaped the Burton back line but, perhaps aware of Poole's presence, took his eye off the ball at the last minute and struck fresh air with his attempted lob.

Michael Kightly missed a great chance minutes after the re-start when he ghosted in at the back post to meet Poole's cross but instead of heading elected to shot and blazed over from six yards.

A sickening clash of heads between McLean and Brewers skipper Darren Stride then held up play for several minutes while both physios tried to stem the flow of blood.

But, as you would expect from two of the most committed men in the game, both soon returned to the fray and McLean wasted little time in getting back into the thick of the action.

Collecting strike partner Oli's flick on the ex-Aldershot man forced a terrific save one handed save out of Poole as he looked to curl one into the bottom corner.

At the other end, Daryl Clare almost caught Bayes out with an audacious 30-yard snap-shot on the turn and Shaw found room in the box but could not get enough purchase on his shot to trouble the Blues stopper.

The breakthrough eventually came 20 minutes from time when Ashley Nicholls was dispossessed inside his own half and allowed Ducros to collect and unleash a 25-yard thunderbolt into the top corner.

Grays responded well and would have been on level terms five minutes later had it not been for a second wonderful stop from Poole who defied his 43 years to spurn Oli.

Kightly got down the right and squared the ball for the ex-QPR man who mesmerised John Brayford before thumping an effort at goal only for Poole to equal the shot with a fine palm over the bar.

A hectic finale ensued, including six minutes of added on time, with Grays throwing on Jamie Slabber and Lee Boylan in their quest for an equaliser.

That very nearly came when McLean rose to meet Poole's left winger but just when it looked like he would head into the top corner, Chris Hall got in the way to deflect the effort wide and ensure his side hung on for all three points.

By Ryan Goad
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the report.